The Indian Ocean
27.9 Nautical Miles off the coast of Port Hedland
Waves crashed against the hull, but could barely shift the weight of the HMAS Byron. The vessel, an Armidale class patrol ship commissioned by the Australian Naval Forces, thrust three hundred tons of steel through the tide, and cut through the water at a cruising speed of eighteen knots.
Officer Stanley Simpson lingered on the front deck and stared into the wilderness. Through his salt-coated gaze he could see only blue, but there was more out there; reports had come in of a raft, small as it was ambitious, casting life into the current and praying to whatever god that better fortune would wash back.
It wasn’t his first mission, far from it. Every few weeks there was another boat, and every time they would intercept and board only to find the traces of former humans, covered in filth, stinking and begging for clean water. Men, women, and often children, fleeing from homes torn by war and persecution, only to land in their hands.
If only they’d known that in place of freedom they would be sent to a cell on an island off the coast of Indonesia; Christmas Island, maybe Nauru. If only they’d known that the “lucky country” existed for those born inside and nobody else.
Soon a speck appeared in the distance, and within the hour it was a dot; then after it became two. Stanley Simpson furrowed his brow and lifted his binoculars. Why, he wondered, were there two boats out on the water? The Captain had made no mention of this.
“All hands to their stations,” the captain blared over the speakers. “Sit still and await your orders. This doesn’t look like a normal grab, boys.”
The officer ran to his place and took up arms. On either side of the vessel his crewmen were ready with ropes and hooks with which to snare the smaller of the lost ships, but what of the other?
As they neared it became evident that the second boat was not like the other; it was, in fact, decidedly advanced, possibly a former naval vessel in its own right. It sat still in the water, lingering beside the floating hut of refugees that hid while remaining in plain sight.
“What the bloody hell do you call this?” one of the crewman grunted.
Officer Simpson had no answer. He bit his lip and waited.
Once more the captain’s voice blasted over the speakers, this time aimed at the waiting craft. “This is the HMAS Byron, Assail Division of the Royal Australian Navy,” he declared. “Your vessel has illegally entered Australian waters, and we are compelled to take you into our custody. Prepare to be boarded.”
“Who do you reckon that second lot is; one of ours?” a crewmate wondered aloud.
Simpson inhaled and tensed. “Nah, mate. Definitely not one of ours.”
Of the ten crew six sat ready for action and fixed their gaze on the larger of the vessels. Every one of them had been trained for this day, when the eye of the storm passed and all hell would break loose.
“There are two other boats on patrol, probably another fifty miles out,” someone muttered. “We probably won’t have time to wait for them.”
Stillness grabbed the men as something stirred upon the opposing ship. A door opened, and from it stepped a woman and a man, both elaborately dressed.
The man in the pressed uniform followed the female figure who, in spite of the warmth bearing down on them dressed in a long coat, high heeled boots, gloves and a sun hat. Perhaps more peculiar was the mask that she wore under her brunette locks, speckled with gold and diamonds swirling around dark eyes and frozen lips.
She gestured for the man to step forward with a megaphone.
The man in the pressed uniform rattled out a speech: “Dieses Land ist das Erste, eine Heimat eine neue Ordnung und einen neue Nation von den Traumbilder von den Prophet Adolf Hitler gestalten. Das Krieg werden alles verzehren und deine werden Opfer gefeiert werden. Heil den Führer von Morgen.”
“Did you hear that?” one of the men pressed. “I swear I heard him say ‘Hitler’.”
The woman stood at attention and thrust her hand in the air, removing all doubt.
Officer Simpson clenched his fists. “He did, mate. They’re bloody Nazis!”
Before an order could be given the woman ran and threw herself over the chasm between boats. She cleared the distance with what seemed to be great ease and perched herself on the railing of the navy vessel.
In a fluid motion she thrust toward a member of the crew, clasped his cheeks and pressed his lips to her mask. In no time at all his flesh turned from pink to blue as the once proud officer choked on her kiss.
“She’s a superhuman!” Simpson roared.
He didn’t need an order to draw his firearm; several of his peers had done the same. It was the first time he’d pulled the trigger outside of combat training, but like the others Stanley Simpson did not hesitate in unleashing fury upon the beast.
Holes littered the shape of the invader until all that remained was her clothing. The coat, hat, mask and hair fell to the ground in a vacant pile as though there had been nothing occupying them. All the same it didn’t stop Stanley and the other officers from reloading and training their sights on the garments.
Suddenly his comrade at arms began to cough, then a second later another. One by one the symptoms snaked through the crewmen, and eventually Officer Simpson as well. He watched as they fell, strangled from the inside, knowing that he would be next.
He dropped his gun, trembled, and thought of his father and brother back in Shepparton. “Oh god,” he rasped; he never stood a chance.
Officer Stanley Simpson collapsed under his weight and struck the deck. The ocean spray was especially cold, and was poised to swallow him whole.
In his last breath he heard a hiss which he knew to be of his killer.
“War will rage eternal,” she said.
To be continued…